Give Me Shelter

Shelter thatching crew 6-7-18 web optimized

Our buildings are thatched the traditional Maya way using logs and palm leaves, and the jungle provides. Cohune palms have huge leaves that grow up to 20 feet in length. The leaves are chopped off of trees but grow back and allow the tree to be harvested for decades.

A crew of three has been hard at work for two days building the frame of the shelter. They don’t rely on measuring tapes and levels, but rather measure most parts using their hands. A skilled builder is surprisingly effective with this, and the shelters always turn out square and symmetrical. Once they’re done making the outline of the shelter, we call in the full thatching crew.

Each side of the roof supports five rafters. We need a thatching crew of six people: one to stand on each rafter and one on the ground handing leaves up. The rafter crew places the cohune leaves, which are cut in half down the middle rib, in rows parallel to the ground.

Once five rows are laid one on top of the other, they tie the bunch of leaves to the rafters and repeat with the next layer. The leaflets are angled on the cohune, so there is a separate left and right half to the cut leaves. When a left half is placed on top of a right half (or vice versa) the diagonal leaflets cross each other, forming a waterproof mat of vegetation. Our shelters are in an open field where the roofs can dry out between rains, so we’ll get years of service out of them before they need to be replaced.

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